Among the 22 fibroblast growth factors (FGFs), FGF21 has now emerged as a key metabolic regulator. However, the mechanism whereby FGF21 mediates its metabolic actions per se remains largely unknown. Here, we show that FGF21 represses mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) and improves insulin sensitivity and glycogen storage in a hepatocyte-autonomous manner. Administration of FGF21 in mice inhibits mTORC1 in the liver, whereas FGF21-deficient mice display pronounced insulin-stimulated mTORC1 activation and exacerbated hepatic insulin resistance (IR). FGF21 inhibits insulin- or nutrient-stimulated activation of mTORC1 to enhance phosphorylation of Akt in HepG2 cells at both normal and IR condition. TSC1 deficiency abrogates FGF21-mediated inhibition of mTORC1 and augmentation of insulin signaling and glycogen synthesis. Strikingly, hepatic βKlotho knockdown or hepatic hyperactivation of mTORC1/ribosomal protein S6 kinase 1 abrogates hepatic insulin-sensitizing and glycemic-control effects of FGF21 in diet-induced insulin-resistant mice. Moreover, FGF21 improves methionine- and choline-deficient diet-induced steatohepatitis. Conclusions: FGF21 acts as an inhibitor of mTORC1 to control hepatic insulin action and maintain glucose homeostasis, and mTORC1 inhibition by FGF21 has the therapeutic potential for treating IR and type 2 diabetes. (Hepatology 2016;64:425-438).
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